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Mayor 'disappointed,' seeks movement on Bradford growth plan

While approvals are still pending for growth targets as well as county and provincial policies, the amount of land available for development in town is running out

One year after council approved Bradford’s proposed plan for a population of more than 84,000 by 2051, little progress has been made as policies from both the county and the province remain in limbo.

Committee of the whole recommended council receive an update to the growth management plan, direct staff to make further recommendations on accelerating development of employment lands, and direct staff to issue requests for consultants to assist with the plan — all during its March 5 meeting.

This comes as the latest step in the ongoing effort to update the town’s official plan, which guides how property can be used in Bradford and to which water and sewer services will be provided, as well as potential expansion of municipal boundaries.

“I’m disappointed that we’ve sat here for a year and we’re at the same point we were in February 2023,” Mayor James Leduc said.

This week’s report from senior planner Mana Masoudi acted as an update to a similar report presented in February 2023 from Alan Wiebe, manager of community planning, who had since spoke to council in June about the planning difficulties posed by uncertain provincial policies and newer legislation.

Last year’s report recommended separating the work of updating the growth plan into two phases: an intensification review and then a boundary review — with each expected to take about 12 to 18 months and coming with a total cost of about $585,000.

“I assumed Phase 1 was going to be started,” Leduc said, adding that he now wants to “consolidate those two in the same consultants report,” because “this is something that we need to move on.”

While he acknowledged the town has been waiting for the Ontario government to finalize changes to its own provincial policy statement (PPS) and approve the County of Simcoe’s official plan amendment No. 7 (SCOPA 7), the mayor still felt “there’s some work we could do or could have done.”

While the PPS plans land use across Ontario, the county’s official plan sets both population and job growth targets for local municipalities including Bradford, and was approved by county council on Aug. 9, 2022.

Even though he expressed support for the intensification targets in the plan, Ward 6 Coun. Nickolas Harper wasn’t so sure about proceeding until the province had approved the higher level policies.

“I don’t like working in futility,” he said. “I’m not in favour of doing the work twice or even three times when we have all these fates of decisions still waiting out there. I’d rather defer this until we get those decisions.”

Multiple councillors agreed with the need for the province to make those decisions, with Ward 4 Coun. Joseph Giordano putting it bluntly.

“We need the province to help us with the county so they can put their money where there plan is,” he said.

In response to questions from councillors, Wiebe explained that despite “potential policy shifts,” there was still work that needed to be done as “time is of the essence.”

He noted that in 2017, consultants found the town had about enough land available for development to “slightly exceed” the previous population forecast of 50,500 people by 2031.

However, with only seven years left “on that planning runway,” the sooner the town can update its official plan, the more time is available for private developers to submit applications and complete all the necessary studies and agreements to get shovels in the ground.

Depending on a number of factors, developers frequently require six years or more in order to complete that work, leaving little wiggle room for the “development required to support the town’s growth after 2031.”

Wiebe also noted that the province expects municipalities to plan for land needs 25 years out.

“That’s where the impetus comes in to advance growth planning work sooner than later,” he said.

While Ward 7 Coun. Peter Dykie agreed “we need to be proactive to plan our community,” and acknowledged that “densification is a big part of it,” because “I hate to see farmland chewed up,” he also acknowledged that this level of planning work “doesn’t happen overnight.”

Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott praised staff for their work on the plan so far, saying it “really highlights” potential changes that are “both long sought after and really beneficial.”

That includes “animating” Bridge Street as the “eastern gateway” to town by adding recreation space and more density near the GO station.

“Putting the density near the GO Train station is where it belongs,” he said. “Bradford looks and feels and acts like we’re a part of the GTA now.”

Recommendations from committee of the whole are considered for approval at the next regular council meeting.

Future targets

The county’s SCOPA 7 provided the following growth policies for Bradford:

  1. Identifying the Bradford Urban Area as a “Primary Settlement Area”
  2. Allocating post-2021 growth to the town, through to the year 2051, of an additional:
    about 40,000 people (increase in population to 84,370);
    about 19,000 jobs (increase in jobs to 30,900)
  3. Estimating that BWG will require up to an additional 449.1 hectares of new designated greenfield area lands to accommodate residential growth to 2051
  4. Increasing BWG’s intensification target (i.e., annual percentage of new units constructed in the delineated built-up area) from 40 to 42 per cent
  5. Increasing BWG’s designated greenfield area density target (calculated in the number of residents and jobs per hectare) from 35 to 55
  6. Conceptually mapping the Major Transit Station Area around the Bradford GO Station, and directing BWG to refine that conceptual boundary and undertake comprehensive planning for that area

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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